David Laws: 'We need to be nicer to teachers and invest more in them'
The “open warfare” between teachers and politicians is putting potential candidates off joining the profession, schools minister David Laws has said.
The “confrontational stance” adopted by Conservative ministers, including former education secretary Michael Gove, has damaged the government’s education reforms, the Liberal Democrat minister added.
Mr Laws made the comments in a wide-ranging speech in London this morning, in which he criticised his former colleague Mr Gove for being “strikingly unsuccessful” when it came to communicating with teachers.
The government should “avoid conflicts” with teachers and work hard to attract more outstanding people into the profession, he said, adding: “Bluntly, we need to be nicer to teachers and we need to invest more in them.”
Mr Laws used his speech to distance himself from his coalition partners, branding the micromanagement of education by politicians as “damaging”. Political interference ought to be kept to a minimum, he said, and he called for agencies such as Ofsted and exams watchdog Ofqual to be “guarded” from politicians.
He highlighted the removal of Baroness Sally Morgan as chair of the inspectorate as “one of the worst decisions” taken by Mr Gove.
He also backed Ofsted’s chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw in his desire to inspect academy chains. “I regret that neither Michael Gove nor the present secretary of state [Nicky Morgan] has been willing to give those powers to Ofsted. I am determined to change this in the next Parliament,” he added.
Mr Laws' comments were made in reference to a lack of a proper oversight of academies, many of which have struggled since converting under the coalition’s reforms.
The newly introduced regional schools commissioners – brought in to offer some local oversight of academies and free schools – covered “absurdly large areas”, the minister said.
And he announced his intention to publish new league tables before the general election that would compare the performance of local authorities and academy chains.
“These tables will show that some academy chains and local authorities are doing a brilliant job,” he said. “Some are doing a mediocre job. Some are doing unacceptably badly – both local authorities and academy chains. By bringing this to light, these tables can inform the next crucial stage in an enhanced accountability regime for the middle tier.”
The Lib Dem reiterated his party’s pledge to protect spending on education from “cradle to college”, adding that a majority Conservative government posed “a serious risk to the quality of our education system”.
“Without money, standards will fall, reform will stall, and it will become much harder to recruit talented new teachers,” Mr Laws said.
He also stated his party’s intention to introduce legislation to ensure teachers had, or were working towards, qualified teacher status, labelling his coalition partners’ decision to allow unqualified teachers into schools as “bizarre”.
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